Two leading figures in the All Progressives Congress (APC), former Head of State, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and former Vice-President, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, appeared bent on contesting for the party’s 2015 presidential ticket at the convention scheduled for December.
Against the background of festering grievances and internal party squabbles in some state chapters of APC, the National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, assured party faithful that progress had been made to settle disputes and bring back the estranged leaders to one fold.
Muhammed said: “Two of our reconciliation committees led by Atiku and Senator Bukola Saraki have started work and have also met with various party leaders and stakeholders in an effort to try and sort out disagreeable issues.
Certainly, progress at reconciliation has reached advance stage, as I speak with you. We expect that all the grey areas will be attended to with most of our aggrieved members back as fold before arrangements for our presidential convention will commence,” he said.
However, THISDAY gathered yesterday that the duo of Buhari and Atiku along with other notable aspirants have started clandestine moves aimed at mobilising support from every segment of the party.
It seems only the Ramadan festivities had been standing between most of the key political gladiators to start unfolding their bid for the party’s presidential ticket.
Other aspirants who are also known to be nursing presidential ambition are Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwakwanso; Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Senator Bukola Saraki and Sam Nda-Isaiah.
Speaking on the plan by Atiku to unfold his political agenda immediately after his return from the Ramadan holidays, a close aide of the former vice-president said he would most probably address the media formally to announce his interest.
“Right now, Atiku is said to be out of the country on Ramadan holidays,” a source told THISDAY that plans to unveil his presidential bid would probably be a top priority issue once he is back from his foreign trip.
He said Atiku would be running for the APC ticket notwithstanding the involvement of Buhari in the race and his presumed popularity.
According to the aide, Atiku had been mobilising support from party stakeholders and fine-tuning his existing political structures across the country since joining the opposition platform.
“Atiku will definitely make himself available to run for presidency on the platform of APC. Every candidate has his own game plan. Without taking anything away from Buhari, when it comes to the political game and ability to mobilise support across board, I do not think he is at par with Atiku.
“Remember we are talking about the man who contested for the PDP ticket with other political heavy weights like General Ibrahim Babangida, Senator Bukola Saraki and Alhaji Gusau and defated them. “Nobody is saying that Buhari does not have supporters, but just like a lot of people are supporting him, in the same way also many others have decided to back Atiku in the race.
“That is the nature of politics, people are free to choose on what side they wish to belong. All Aitku is asking for is let there be a level playing field so that at the end of the process, the party would come out stronger. This will make it possible for others aspirants who may have lost to turn their support for the chosen candidate,” he said.
He said the former vice-president is running on a terrain he is quite familiar with being a politician to the core.
On whether the inability of APC to wheather the storm of impeachment against the former Governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, would not count against Atiku’s chances, the loyalist said Adamawa State politics is a complex issue and cannot in any way be used as yardstick to rate him.
According to the source, Atiku is already making serious in-roads even in the South-west part of the country, where he said some of the governors are routing for the Adamawa-born politician.
“Definitely, Atiku is in the race to win. He has been in politics for a long time and there was never a time he took a break or was out of touch with his political structures. So everything is in intact. He has not come this far for him to step down for anybody,” he said.
However, an APC chieftain from the South-east, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, has said Buhari has an edge over other eminently qualified presidential aspirants in the party and is indeed the defacto candidate of the opposition party for the 2015 election.
He said if the party adopts direct primary, Buhari will most likely emerge as he has the highest followership in Kano that registered 2.6 million members which is the highest for APC.
“If a free and fair presidential primary is conducted in the APC, and going by Article 20 of our great party, which provided for consensus, direct or indirect primary, as one the mode to adopt in conducting primaries. It will be difficult under consensus to tell Buhari to step down for any other,” he said.
In the same vein, close associate to the former head of state from the North-east, confirmed that the former military head of state, would again run for the presidency on the platform of the APC in 2015.
While speaking in an interview with journalists in Abuja, the party chieftain said Buhari remained a viable candidate for the highest office despite some critics who are opposing his candidacy base on age.
“Buhari will run for the presidency in 2015, take my words,” he said.
Some stakeholders in the party are of the view that younger politicians like Governors Kwakwanso, Nda- Isaiah and Saraki should be given a chance to contest from the North.”
But the APC chieftain who said Buhari “is a gentle and approachable leader, expressed the view that most people do not trust some of the younger aspirants parading themselves for the same position
“I am open to another candidate from the North, but that candidate must demonstrate the ability to bring out the voters, because we want to win this election. APC is not in this election for its members to enjoy themselves and have a good time. We want to remove a bad government. We want to replace this bad government with a good one.
“Some of these young guys you don’t argue with them. You can argue with Buhari, because he is humble. I mean he is approachable. May be now that they have tried to kill him they may tightened the security around him,” he stated.